Thursday, 11 December 2014

5 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake this Holiday Season

If you are thinking there is lots of baking, cooking and entertaining to do and you will fall victim to high sugar load this holiday, here are some tips to help you reduce your sugar intake.
  1. If you are baking, substitute stevia for sugar.  Stevia is derived from a plan, stevia rebaudina and is extremely sweet.  However, with a zero glycemic load, stevia is a good substitute for sugar for this season’s baking.
  2. If you are drinking, don’t just think calories, think sugar as well.  Cocktails and ciders tend to have more sugar than distilled spirits.  Keep hydrated with water.  Have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol that you consume.  For coffees and the classic cafĂ© fare, a long black will have much less sugar than a peppermint mocha.
  3. Freeze your baked goods.  If you are preparing some cookies and tarts for entertaining, freeze them in an airtight container.  Take them out to thaw on the day you are entertaining.  This way, snacking on them on the days leading up to the party day is unlikely as they are stored away frozen in your freezer.
  4. Have a plan, especially if you are not the host.  Select savoury treats more than sweet treats and if you want to have sweet treats, take a “sampler” size, not a full portion.  This will reduce added sugar that you consume.  Eat before you go, as functions often start later than the stated time and if you are famished, it more likely that you will pick on the wrong foods.  You can have a Shape Up Protein shake or half a keto bar before leaving for the function.  If you start with the right foods that contain a good amount of fats like salmon, avocado, chicken, turkey or nuts, it satisfies you faster and it is less likely that you will need the sweet stuff.
  5. Reduce carbohydrates where possible.  Spuds, rice, pasta and bread contain too much carbohydrates.  Limiting your intake of these will cut down on your sugar consumption.
Just because it is the festive season does not mean that you need to allow sugar to free flow in you and create havoc.  A little sugar here and there is fine, but without being mindful, there can be an overload.  Enjoy the spirit of the season, spend quality time with family and friends and relax and rejuvenate!

P.S.  And if you happen to drink a bit too much, make sure you hydrate yourself post party, with coconut water and have a B vitamin!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Is coconut oil good for you? What oil should I be cooking with?

The market for oils for cooking, is becoming very confusing.  Whilst many are aware that some good oils are important for normal body functions, what constitutes good is debatable, as manufacturers justify why consumers should be using their oil.

Recently, there has been a lot of debate as to the claim made by coconut oil to be a healthy oil.  The rationale for the doubt creation is that there is not enough research to prove it.  How much research is adequate is dependent on who’s looking at it and what you are looking for.  In our quest to combat heart disease and move away from saturated fats (butter and lard) to polyunsaturated fats in the last 30 or so years, the incidence of heart disease has not decreased, if at all it has increased!

I invite you to look at the biochemistry of oil, of saturated fats and unsaturated fats.  What differentiates them is the number of double bonds in the chain.  The main fat in coconut oil is lauric acid.  Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, is easy to process and goes straight to your liver to produce energy, rather than stored.  It is easy to digest and supports thyroid function.  Coconut oil can withstand heating.

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, which means it contains a double bond, if you break it, you degrade the quality of the oil.  This is a good fat when used in low temperature cooking or in salads, not in high heat.

Rice bran oil has been a favourite, marketed for it high heat properties.  I have been asked often if rice bran oil is a good oil for cooking.  Information I have been able to access states that approximately half the oil is polyunsaturated and the half monounsaturated, so using biochemistry, is not an ideal oil for heating, because of the many double bonds that the polyunsaturated part of the oil contains.  However, rice bran oil claims a high smoking point.  Smoking point is increased in refined oils, i.e. the process of bleaching and filtering the oil from the naturally occurring ingredients like proteins, enzymes and minerals in the oil increases the smoking point.  The process of bleaching and filtering will result in an oil that is more neutral in taste, has a higher smoking point and longer shelf life. So the higher smoking point in rice bran oil will be from the refining process to allow for that to happen.

Soy, canola and corn oils are polyunsaturated fats.  They are heavily traded commodities, which makes genetic modification appealing for commercial purposes.  I do not favour these oils for cooking.  Some other fats I advise staying away from are margarines.  These products often have a Heart Foundation Tick, with very little saturated fats, but are highly processed.  How do you convert a liquid oil at room temperature into a solid form?  Solidification or hardening.  I’m not sure that the hardening of the liquid oil is not hardening our arteries as well!

In short, I would recommend using coconut oil for high heat cooking and olive oil for salads and stir frying or steam frying.  

Friday, 14 November 2014

Strategies to deal with Stress

As we are moving to the end of the year, stress levels increase. What should we be giving to the different people in our lives, what to wear to Christmas functions, when we don’t fit into our best party dress, what to do for the holidays, and the list goes on.  Here are some interesting facts regarding stress:
  • Caffeine increases stress (and how often we resort to coffee when we are stressed)
  • Stress shrinks the memory centre of your brain
  • Stress makes you fat in the abdomen

Being stressed, fat and forgetful certainly do not seem to be a pleasant combination. 

Stress can affect each of us differently. Perhaps you are suffering from anxiety, feeling worried, depressed or irritable; even feeling exhausted and overwhelmed can indicate you are under stress. As well as affecting your ability to cope, stress may also be causing a disruption to your health. When under stress for a length of time, you may be more susceptible to tension headaches, high blood pressure, frequent colds and flus, digestive disorders or a worsening of an existing condition. So you can see, there are many reasons why it is so important to manage your stress now, before it starts impacting your health and wellbeing.

For most people, the dietary intake during periods of stress are also not the best.  It is often takeaway food on the go, or no food, or snacks all the time.  This does not help as the body is needing more nourishment but instead it is deprived of it.

Dietary and Lifestyle recommendations to distress include
  1. Deep, slow, breathing, making sure that on inhalation, the abdomen extends.
  2. Engage in some meditation, prayer or yoga daily to distress, unwind and refocus.
  3. Have some ‘me’ time, be it an aromatherapy bath, listening to music, knitting, reading or cooking, whatever you enjoy that makes you feel relaxed.
  4. Eat seasonally, organic where possible or fresh produce.  Make sure you include greens every day.  It does not have to be just eaten raw, it can be lightly cooked, stirfried, put into soups or juiced or blended in a smoothie.
  5. Have adequate good fats – fish, seeds, nuts, olive and coconut oil.
  6. Avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, additives and preservatives.
When you can differentiate between the different types of stress disorders, whether it is anxiety, worry, depression or irritability, the appropriate herbs can be selected to support the body’s response to stress. We offer a Natural Stress Less Program, if you have trouble destressing, talk to us about what we can help you with.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Simple Healthy Cooking - Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

½ of a large head of cauliflower, blended
250g chicken thigh sliced, marinated with salt
½ red capsicum
½ yellow capsicum
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons of Braggs liquid aminos to taste
3 tablespoons dehydrated sprouted buckwheat
A handful roasted cashews
A dollop of butter
Pepper to taste

Cut cauliflower in smaller pieces, put into blender and blend into fine bits. 

In a heated pan, put 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and add chopped garlic.  Once garlic is fragrant, add in chicken thigh slices and stir fry till chicken cooked.  Add in blended cauliflower and stir fry for 5-8 minutes.  Blend in chopped capsicum, stir fry for another 2-3 minutes and add liquid aminos in. 

Scoop into serving bowl, stir in a dollop of butter.  Add cashews and dehydrated buckwheat and some pepper.

Dehydrated Sprouted Buckwheat

1 cup buckwheat
Glass sprouter

Soak buckwheat for 1-2 hours and drain.  Let buckwheat spout in glass sprouter. Rinse in cold running water 2-3 times a day and let the seeds continue to sprout.  Put sprouted buckwheat into dehydrator at medium to allow seeds to dehydrate for 5-6 hours.  When done, buckwheat sprouts are dry and tastes crunchy.  Store in airtight container and use in dishes and desserts.

Note:  Buckwheat is wheat free seed and is suitable for people on wheat and gluten free diets.  It helps to improve insulin sensitivity and makes a great snack.  Ground up, buckwheat flour can be added to pancakes.

Simple Healthy Cooking - Baked Garlic and Orange Chicken Nibbles

1kg chicken nibbles
4 cloves garlic
2 bird’s eye chillies (optional)
Rind of 1 orange, grated
Juice of half an orange
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt

Blend grated orange rind, orange juice, salt, garlic and chillies.  Spread marinate into chicken nibbles and let it marinate for at least 20 minutes.  It tastes best if marinated for some time in the fridge.

Oil a baking pan and spread chicken nibbles onto the pan.  Bake at 170C for 30 minutes.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Managing Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal problem affecting 1 in 15 women. PCOS displays symptoms of missed or irregular menstrual cycles, high levels of male hormone (androgens) resulting in facial hair, male pattern baldness and/or acne, obesity and multiple fluid filled cysts in either ovaries as seen on an ultrasound. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility.

What causes PCOS?

One of the common conditions PCOS women have is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance and increased luteinising hormone (LH) stimulate ovarian androgen production, resulting in higher levels of free testosterone in a woman’s body.  This increase in androgens causes acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth on a woman’s face or body) and male pattern baldness.  Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and obesity are frequently present in women with PCOS.  A decrease in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) cause impaired development of follicles.  This is a major cause of missed menstrual cycles (anovulation).  Metabolic syndrome is a condition of high levels of small low density cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, hypertension and high blood glucose levels and low level of high density cholesterol.

What other health problems are PCOS women at risk of?

Women with PCOS are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes before age 40.  The risk of heart attack is 4 to 7 times higher in women with PCOS than women of the same age without PCOS.  Women with PCOS are also at higher risk of developing endometrial cancer due to irregular menstrual periods and low levels of progesterone.  Progesterone causes the endometrium to shed each month as a menstrual period.  Without progesterone, the endometrium becomes thick in the absence of menstrual periods and this increases the risk of endometrial cancer.  Women with PCOS tend to have higher rates of gestational diabetes, miscarriage, preeclampsia and premature delivery of babies.  Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are modifiable conditions for PCOS and these can be improved with a good PCOS diet and exercise.

Diet for Managing PCOS

Because insulin resistance is the result of high level of insulin production that causes the cells to be less sensitive to insulin signaling for glucose update, successful management of insulin resistance can help manage PCOS. Successful management of insulin resistance will involve an uptake of low carbohydrate, low sugar and high protein foods. Low glycemic load carbohydrates cause less fluctuations in blood sugar levels and is beneficial for women with PCOS who normally suffer from insulin resistance. Therefore, women with PCOS should reduce consumption of processed foods and saturated fats, and revert to a diet high in fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, eggs, legumes, seeds and nuts provide the nutrients without the unnecessary blood sugar fluctuations. Because women with PCOS have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes provide the diet with fibre, essential minerals and good fats for better lipids and cardiovascular risk management.  Chromium and magnesium are important to help maintain normal blood sugar and insulin levels. It is difficult to obtain a high level of chromium from food sources.  So, supplementation may be required.  Combining chromium with vitamin C and niacin can enhance its absorption. Foods containing chromium include brewer’s yeast, broccoli, romaine lettuce, raw onions and ripe tomatoes. Magnesium rich foods include green vegetables, broccoli, beans and nuts. Cinnamon and licorice are herbs known to improve insulin sensitivity and lower androgen levels.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tips for creating vibrant, healthy skin

If you are suffering from distressing skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema, psoriais or acne, you will find that many of the conventional treatments available do not manage your symptoms effectively.  This is because skin problems are rarely caused by one single factor.  Your skin is the largest organ of your body.  Its function is to eliminate toxins, regulate body temperature and provide protection to the inside of your body from potential micro-organisms’ invasion. Your body literally shed millions of skin cells every day and your skin completely replaces itself roughly every 27 days.  This means that if you can identify and treat the factors contributing to your skin problems, you should start to see dramatic improvements to your skin within one to two months.

What causes skin conditions?

The skin is a reflection of the health of your internal environment.  There are often many things that can contribute to a skin condition.  Here are some possible reasons:
  • if your internal digestive and detoxification systems are not functioning properly, your skin will suffer;
  • if you are experiencing a high level of stress, then the inflammation this causes can become visible through the skin;
  • if your circulation and / or lymphatic systems are congested, then your skin will reflect this; and
  • if your diet lacks certain nutrients your body and your skin needs, you will be presented with a skin condition indicating that your body is not getting the nutrients it needs.
Improving the health of your skin is not just about applying creams or lotions onto your skin and hoping that the problem will go away.  You also need to address the underlying contributing factors to the skin problem.  Here are some simple tips to improve the health of your skin:
  • Eat well, avoid junk foods and feed your skin.  Poor diet is one of the major contributing factors to skin issues.  A poor diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as inflammation and your skin will be the first to show the effect of a poor or inappropriate diet.  Your skin needs certain nutrients.  Nutrients such as zinc, vitamin D and fish oil are vital for your skin health as well as for the immune system.  Deficiencies in these nutrients have been shown to have an impact on skin conditions. 
  • Keep your bowel movement regular and maintain healthy bowel flora.  If you are constipated and not moving your bowel regularly, toxins will not be removed from your body efficiently.  Toxins reabsorbed back into your system may be removed through your skin and this can aggravate skin conditions.  Adequate good bacteria (or bowel flora) is essential for healthy skin.  Bowel flora is key for maintaining proper immune function and digestion, to prevent constipation and harmful microbial overgrowth of the skin and digestive system.  So, improving constipation and sluggish digestion will assist in treating skin conditions. 
  • Manage your stress and exercise regularly.  Stress is one of the major contributing factors to skin conditions especially acne as it causes inflammation, depletes your immune system and destroys bowel flora.  If you feel that you are stress out, try some relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.  Exercise can be a way to relax and manage stress as well.  Exercise helps the skin remove toxins through sweating as well as being anti-inflammatory.
  • Detoxify your body regularly. If any of your five major channels of elimination, ie., the skin, the bowel, the kidneys, the lymphatic system and the lungs, is not functioning effectively and efficiently, the other channels are forced to work harder to help remove toxins the body is trying to eliminate. In most cases, congestion in one of these channels is expressed via the skin in the form of skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. Therefore, improving the capacity of your elimination channels through regular integrated detoxification program will help to improve the health of your skin.
  • Skin conditions can be caused by a number of factors.  A personalised treatment program is often needed to address the specific underlying causes of your individual condition.  While treating the cause is key to the long term solution of your skin condition, you can also use natural topical creams containing natural herbs (such as chamomile, calendula, aloe vera), essential oils (such as lavender, sandlewood) and nutrients (such as vitamin D, E, B12, zinc) to help manage your symptoms, reduce skin inflammation and promote healing.

Skin conditions can be caused by a number of factors.  A personalised treatment program is often needed to address the specific underlying causes of your individual condition.  While treating the cause is key to the long term solution of your skin condition, you can also use natural topical creams containing natural herbs (such as chamomile, calendula, aloe vera), essential oils (such as lavender, sandlewood) and nutrients (such as vitamin D, E, B12, zinc) to help manage your symptoms, reduce skin inflammation and promote healing.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Which diet is the best? Do you have to be vegan, eat raw food in order to be healthy?

I have often been asked what the best diet is.  I have clients presenting in clinic who are following one diet or another or switching from one diet to another and not feeling any better.  Many would ask me if I am a vegetarian.  As a naturopath and practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I feel it is important for me to share with you what my thoughts are on this subject. 

When I was undergoing my naturopathic training many years ago, we had to study and analyse a number of diets.  We had to practise the way of eating of one diet whilst we researched the nutrition and science behind the many, often contradictory diets.  The one I had to work on practically and did a fair amount of research on was the vegetarian diet.  I cut out all meats and fish.  To start with I am not a big meat eater, so I thought vegetarianism should suit me.  Much to my surprise, even over a 2 week period, I found my energy dropping and my sleep unrefreshed.  The last few days were really a drag, as I was looking forward to adding in my small amount of chicken and fish again.  What I learned out of that exercise was that, even though I consumed just a small amount of chicken and fish, those foods provided me with essential nutrients like magnesium and B12 that helped with energy production and nervous system support.  Moreover, the protein helped with tryptophan production that helped me sleep better.  Whilst I still consume a large proportion of plant based foods, including vegetables, seeds, nuts and some sea vegetables, adding a small amount of meat made all that difference.

There is also a misconception about the word "vegetarian".  There are a lot of people whose health is no better, but worse after becoming vegetarians.  I have seen a lot of my patients who say they are vegetarians, but in fact, they are carbotarians!  Most of their meals are full of carbohydrate, not vegetables, seeds or nuts! They always wonder why they are getting fatter and their health deteriorated after becoming "vegetarians".  Whilst we are designed to eat plenty of plant based foods, we are not designed to consume large amounts of processed foods, like breads, pastries, biscuits, potato chips, cheese flavoured onion rings, chocolate, cakes, etc.  Eating a large portion of processed foods is vegetarianism turned bad, as the fluctuations in blood sugar levels is creating cravings and more intake of sugar laden or high glycemic load foods.

I cannot say that one diet is superior to another, because it all depends on your constitution and needs.  Some people say eat everything in moderation.  I vehemently object to that statement!  Some things that do not agree with a person should just be removed, not even in small amounts!  Drug addicts who go through rehabilitation are taken away from the substance, they are not given a small amount of drug so they don’t react adversely!  And what should be in your diet or not depends on your objective, is it for convalescence, for weight loss, for better energy, etc.  It also depends on what type of physical and mental activity you are experiencing and what your needs are.  I advise you to seek professional guidance but as a starting point, if you are looking at doing it yourself, you should keep a food and symptom diary.  Tracking your progress gives a cheap and objective way of ascertaining what works and what does not.  If there is no consistent pattern you can observe, then seek naturopathic advice, we talk about food and nutrition all the time!

Eggs and butter don’t cause heart disease, sugar does!

I have always preached the benefits of having 1-2 eggs a day, it is a nutritious food, rich in protein, Vitamin A, choline, folate, B12 and some minerals.  It is one of the most affordable wholefoods that has been demonised by many. 

For half a century, we have been hearing doctors preaching that fats cause heart disease, and patients have been advised to reduce intake of eggs and swap butter out for margarine.  Most patients would be swapping eggs out for cereal for breakfast, which apparently was thought to be good for you.  Half a century on, cardiovascular disease is still the leading and growing cause of death, causing 30% of all deaths in New Zealand.

The problem is we have got it wrong!  Eggs and butter don’t cause heart disease, the cause of heart disease is in the consumption of sugar!  Swapping eggs out for breakfast for cereal that is a highly processed carbohydrate is a green card to causing increase in insulin and blood sugar which increases the risk factor for heart disease.

Sugar is the culprit to increasing inflammation and narrowing of the arteries from inflammation increases the risk of a stroke or heart attack.  Sugar is addictive, whether it comes in the form of refined cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Butter is a saturated fat, but it is a naturally occurring fat.  Our bodies need saturated fats, adequate amounts of them are required to reduce the levels of lipoproteins in our blood, which is protective of the cardiovascular system. Margarine, on the other hand, is often made out of a vegetable oil.  Vegetable oils are often liquid at room temperature.  In order to solidify it, the structure of the oil needs to be manufactured and firmed up.  What firms up the oil also firms up your arteries.  It is therefore not a substitute for butter.  If you need to have butter, have it but without the sugar, because it is the sugar that causes heart disease more than the butter!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Do you really need statins when you have high cholesterol? What are the natural alternatives to statins?

High cholesterol has been preached so much as a cause of heart attacks making statins one of the best selling drugs in the world.  In 2010 alone, Simvastatin was the third most prescribed drug in New Zealand with 1.3 million prescriptions, according to the 2010 Pharmac Annual Report.  The USA Food and Drug Administration has issued warning on the use of statins with increasing the risk of diabetes, raised blood pressure and memory loss.  The first two risks are specifically related to cardiovascular health, and it is a paradox to work on lowering cholesterol and the side effects of the drug is causing the increase in cardiovascular risk itself!

So what does the scientific research say about the use of statins?  In a nutshell, statins are protective against heart disease for patients who have had a heart attack.  However, in healthy patients who have not had any cardiac event, especially women, there is no evidence to support the use of statins!  It is interesting that many doctors are still trying to push statins onto their patients just because their cholesterol is elevated even though the patient is healthy otherwise.

You need to know that your liver produces the bulk of your cholesterol.  Eating well – with adequate good fats, not low fats!  The Heart Foundation Diet has not been found to be effective in the reduction of cholesterol. Looking for the Heart Foundation tick is not the answer.  The tick is given to companies willing to pay to get the tick.  We should really have the tick on every head of cabbage and broccoli, should we not?

Have 2-3 tablespoons of cold pressed olive oil in your diet daily.  Eating plenty of raw seeds and nuts will help with the plant based fibre and healthy fat intake.  And keeping your liver well is the key, removing excess sugar, processed carbohydrates and having lots of fresh vegetables will help you win the game.

If working through all these strategies still leaves your cholesterol in limbo, you need additional help.  These are people who would benefit from a Hemaview Live Blood Screening test to take a snapshot about your nutritional status, oxidative stress status and inflammation status to address any other underlying causes of your elevated cholesterol.

I have emphasized the importance to keep your blood pressure in the normal or low-normal range.  The increase in blood pressure puts you at high risk of a cardiac event, probably higher than having high cholesterol!  And if you have high homocysteine levels, correct that!  You need to know your homocysteine levels if you are truly interested in having a healthy cardiovascular system. 

Why using Proton Pump Inhibitors long term can be detrimental to your health?

If you suffer from gut pain and have been using proton pump inhibitors to control that pain for more than 12 weeks, you need to read this!

Professor John Cooke, in his paper published in Circulation in August 2013, showed that long term use can increase risk for heart disease from it causing low magnesium levels, deficiency in Vitamin B12 and low calcium levels.  Other studies have also shown long term use of PPIs causing an increase in bacterial overgrowth in the intestines, particularly C. difficile, increases the risk of pneumonia, osteoporosis and it increases the risk of gastric carcinoma!

A study done on 138 hospitalised patients 88 who developed C.difficile infections were on PPIs and 63% of them had no valid indication for the PPI use!
The worst outcome anyone can get from a drug is dependence on it.  This is shown for PPIs that on withdrawal without correcting the underlying problem, an increase in acid production is noted.  Therefore, this is a drug that needs supervision on withdrawal and if you have been on it for a long time, DO NOT go cold turkey.  The underlying pathophysiology needs to be corrected while maintaining manageable amounts of acid in the stomach.

It is more important that there is an investigation as to why there is persistent high level of acid in the stomach.  Some diet and lifestyle modifications could be safer and more natural.  The common foods that trigger overacidity and reflux include, but not limited to, chocolate, citrus, tomatoes, peppermint, onions, garlic, dense fat foods, and carbonated drinks.  To remove these foods is a good starting point.  And not eating within 3 hours of sleeping!

If you have been using proton pump inhibitors to control your over-acidity symptoms, you should work on why you are overacidic and correct the problem rather than mask the problem.  When the red light comes on your car dashboard, you don’t plaster over the red light and pretend that the light is not there, so don’t do that to your stomach!

Simple recipe ideas for winter

In the last month, I have very commonly heard from many clients that they have found it difficult to eat well because of the cold.  I would like to give you some ideas about eating well with warm foods.  Eating well does not mean raw salads everyday.  Especially in the cold winter, balancing the energetics of the cold with some warm food is great.  Warm food can still be very healthy.  I find it hard to have a meal, especially dinner, without soups these days. 

Making a bone broth on the weekend, with quantity enough for a whole week helps to keep cooking time on the weekday manageable.  I often get over 1kg of chicken carcass, add onions and garlic, carrots and about 5L-6L of water to boil for 1-2 hours.  I strain the soup, throw out the carcass, divide the soup into small containers and freeze them ready to use for the week.  Adding broccoli to it makes a good broccoli soup, adding turnip and lotus root makes one of the soups my children love, or simply chopping up some leek and ham makes a good chunky soup. Other options include leafy greens like watercress or spinach and/or some seaweed for the extra minerals and iodine that you can benefit from.  Another popular option I use is barley, lentils, cauliflower and carrot cubes added to the stock and boiled. Vegetable stir fries with a protein of your choice makes a simple, warm and satisfying dinner.

If you want to make some warm breakfast without cereal, grains or flour, try our flourless pancake.  It’s our family favourite when eaten with cashew or almond butter:

Flourless Pancake Recipe
1 rounded scoop Shape Up Protein Plus or 1 sachet Shape Up
1 rounded scoop ground almond
100ml soy milk (or any milk of your choice)
1 egg

Mix above mixture and pour into a heated stainless steel pan with coconut oil.  Cook until mixture sets.  Makes 2 medium size pancakes.  Add some cashew or almond butter or some blueberry coulis to serve.  Blueberry coulis can be very simply made by cooking 1 cup frozen blueberries (bruise them), 1 teaspoon honey and some lemon juice. Cook until mixture thickens.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Why you should reduce sugar and carbohydrate intake

With the weather turning colder, it is time to get into supporting our bodies with good food, keeping ourselves warm, getting good sleep and supporting the immune system to get through the winter.  We may also feel the hunger more, especially in the evening as we get home and waiting for dinner to cook.  Picking on the wrong foods at this time even though you eat well all day is usually the culprit in piling the winter pounds on and compromising your immunity.  To make it easy to eat well, do not stock up on high sugar foods like soft drinks, lollies, muesli bars and biscuits or foods that convert to sugar easily, also known as high glycemic load carbohydrate foods– like bread and chips.  Yes, although chips are savoury, it still piles on the pounds, from the ease at which it converts to sugar from the processed carbohydrate.

Sugar dampens our immune system, and the more processed the food, the faster it converts to sugar. A can of soft drinks can have up to 9 teaspoons of sugar in it.  New Zealanders on average consume 50.5kg of sugar per person per year or 32 teaspoons of sugar a day!  This is in stark contrast, exceeding by a large margin the World Health Organisation recommendation of 4 teaspoons per day!  A lot of the sugar consumed is not from the act of picking up the spoon and adding sugar to your drink.  It is hidden in processed foods and drinks. To avoid the sugar menace, the best strategy is to keep to fresh, unprocessed foods.  Sugar excites the opiate centres in our brain and the more you have it, the more you want it.  It becomes an addiction.

Fruits and vegetables contain sugar, that is naturally occurring in them.  When you consume them whole, it does not create as much havoc, although fructose from fruits may still create problems for people with fructose mal-absorption. 

Many think that the answer to reducing sugar intake is artificial sweeteners.  Artificial sweeteners, in my view, are a bigger menace than sugar.  It burdens your liver and creates problems for your nervous system.   The simple solution to reducing sugar intake is keeping to fresh, whole foods.  Problems from artificial sweeteners range from stomach discomfort to dizziness and low cognitive function.

Five perceived “Healthy” foods you need to give up if you want to lose fat:

-         Wholemeal bread
-         Yoghurt
-         Potatoes/ spuds
-         Fruit juices
-         High fibre breakfast cereals

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Why Proton Pump Inhibitors may not be necessary for stomach pain and stomach acid reflux?

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) with trade names such as Omeprazole, Pantoprazole, etc. are one of the top 5 most prescribed medicines in New Zealand.  If you have complained of stomach acid reflux or pain in the gut, as a result of peptic ulcer, gastritis or indigestion, this drug has been prescribed for you by your doctor.

It does symptom relief for most people and is usually classified as effective, or is it?  What PPIs do is inhibit acidity in the stomach.  However, our stomachs need to be in an acidic state or else digestion will be hampered.  The compromised digestive process from reduced acidity as a result of using PPIs will create gas and bloating, causing pain in the gut or on some cases excessive belching.  So, the solution is not to reduce the acidity in the stomach by using PPIs, but to restore it together with enzymes and bile secretion, so that food gets digested properly and in time.  This reduces the side effects of delayed gastric emptying.  When food starts to rot in the stomach, it creates lactic acid, from fermentation of food, which can give an acidy feeling, however, this is not hydrochloric acid, which is the resident acid used for digestion in the stomach.

Because you have a reflux, your reflux may not be solely due to your stomach being overly acidic. Food sensitivities, either intolerances or allergies can also be a cause for your reflux.

Meal size and food combination can have an impact on the acidity in the stomach after a meal.  If you are eating too much in one meal or not chewing your food thoroughly enough, you can cause reflux and gut pain after the meal.  If you have poor digestive function, combining many different foods, especially processed foods high in food flavours, enhancers, salt, sugar and rancid fats can cause acidity in the stomach.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with common names such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen that are commonly used for pain relief can also be the cause of your peptic ulcer, irritated gut or pain in the gut.  If you are using a Proton Pump Inhibitor to overcome the side effects of using a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, your treatment principle is wrong!  You are doing symptom control by using another symptom control drug to overcome the side effect of another drug!

Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are very common causes of pain in the gut.  Your body does not need cigarette smoke and your liver can only metabolise 7-14g of alcohol an hour!

That is why PPIs given indiscriminately without identifying the source of the problem can create many undesirable side effects.  The right way to treat any pain in the gut is to identify the root cause of the problem, and heal the gut.  Masking symptoms can be worse and common side effects of PPIs include food allergies, nausea, headaches, creating a vitamin B12 deficiency, increased homocysteine, increased risk of bone fracture, fatigue and long term nutrient deficiency.  Many of my clinic patients who present with many health problems like food allergies, nausea, fatigue and compromised immunity have often been on PPIs or some other medication for years. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Is your thyroid causing you to gain weight?

Your thyroid is that butterfly shaped organ sitting at the front of your neck.  Your thyroid is responsible for your body temperature control, hormonal system, metabolism and that affects the amount of fats you keep.

The most common pathology test for thyroid is the thyroid stimulating hormone.  Your thyroid stimulating hormone is secreted by the hypothalamus, that sits in the brain.  When your thyroid stimulating hormone is high, you are working hard to produce thyroid hormones, which means the thyroid is underactive, not the reverse, as many might think!

An underactive thyroid makes metabolism sluggish, hence the accumulation of body fats.  The person also feels tired, may have persistent elevated cholesterol, experience cold hands and feet, have intolerance to cold, suffer from constipation, feel depressed,   and have dry skin and suffer hair loss.  But, the thyroid stimulating hormone is not the only test for thyroid health!  More often than not, thyroid problems arise from the conversion of T4 to T3.  Your thyroid produces T4, and T4 is converted to T3.

You can have perfectly “normal” TSH and still have a problem with the thyroid if your body if producing a lot of reverse hormones or if there is excess antibodies, i.e. a situation of autoimmunity (you attack your thyroid cells, hence destroying it).

If you are overweight or have been gaining weight even with a very healthy food program, you need to consider your thyroid.  The first thing you can do is to do a basal body temperature test.  Take this test first thing in the morning on waking, before getting up and out of bed, for 3 consecutive days.  This test should only be during menstruation for women who are still menstruating.  If the test is below 36.4C you need to investigate before you get full blown hypothyroidism.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Typical Pattern of Fatigue with Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenal glands are the size of a grape each sitting on top of the kidneys and are responsible for making stress hormones for us to respond to stress.  However, persistent, ongoing stress can drain these glands make them into sultanas.  When the glands are drained and tired, the person often feels tired on waking, and have quite specific tiredness patterns throughout the day.

According to Dr. James Wilson, adrenal fatigue has a typical pattern of fatigue different from other types of fatigue:

On waking, the patient is fatigue because the lack of cortisol and aldosterone from fatigued adrenals creating low blood glucose levels that in turn creates fatigue.  Low aldosterone also causes low blood pressure.  It may take a couple hours to 4 hours to finally wake up.

After lunch, there will be a mid afternoon low around 3 p.m to 4 p.m. and the adrenal fatigue patient will feel better after 6 p.m which will last till 9 p.m..  If the patient stays past 11 p.m., he/she will get a second wind and can keep going till 1 or 2 a.m.  This pattern of fatigue is typically observed in adrenal fatigue patients.

If you suspect you or a family member or friend could be suffering from adrenal fatigue, these many be some of the symptoms:

  • Tired for no reason
  • Tired even after 8-9 hours of continuous sleep
  • Feeling run down and depressed
  • Craving salt or sugar
  • Difficulty bouncing back from illness
  • Depending on coffee to keep going
  • Unable to handle stress and constantly feeling overwhelmed
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Dragging through the day

We can help you and your family/friend.

Conventional medicine only recognises extreme cases of adrenal dysfunction called Addisons disease where patients are put on corticosteroids to sustain them for the rest of their lives.  This is a rare disease with an incidence of about 0.004% of the population.  There are thousands if not tens of thousands who are left unattended and are told that they are “normal” when there is nothing normal about what they feel.

Louise Thompson who published a book this year, “A busy woman’s guide to High Energy Happiness”, struggled with severe adrenal fatigue where at her worst, she was not able to get out of bed and dress herself. I can relate to this, seeing what my late father went through. In the years prior to his cancer diagnosis, he complained of fatigue every day. His doctor put it down to old age.  In Louise’s case, she underwent all the possible tests she could and was told by her doctors that she was “normal”.  In her search for an explanation for her fatigue, she was treated naturopathically for her adrenal fatigue and that turned the corner for her. Her book describes her journey and the physical and thought processes that drain us of energy. It is a hands-on book with numerous exercises about our belief system and challenges us to take energetic actions. I find this book as useful for women as it is for men.  This book is available at our clinic.

All tailored supplements mentioned in the book are available at our clinic. You can have a tailored approach to supplementation, which may include other support for your thyroid, immune, digestive or hormonal systems. 

My advice to you:  Do not confuse what is normal with what is common.  If you are commonly tired, that is not normal. Whilst adrenal fatigue may not be the cause of your fatigue, you could have other reasons why you are fatigue, most of which natural medicines, dietary and lifestyle changes can help tremendously. 

Complications from a Supposedly “Straight Forward” Medical Procedure

I recently took 10 days off and went to Malaysia to see my mum.  My mum had fallen from the stairs a few months back and had a fracture to her lumbar 1 vertebrae.  She was given a procedure of vertebroplasty on her L1 which involved pumping in medical cement, polymethylmethacrylate into her vertebrae.  A leak of the substance into her nervous system caused problems with her speech, control of arms and legs and she had some days of diarrhea. At its worst, she had no control of herself when sitting on a chair and would slip down to the floor.  I’m glad to report that she is in a much better state now.  Before she signed up for the vetebroplasty procedure, I offered her natural bone knitting options for knitting her fracture by building bones using natural calcium and symphytum but she declined my offer.  It was because I mentioned that it would take a good 3 months if not more to help the healing and she wanted "instant cure".  She was promised 6 weeks of being in a brace and then she would be well with the procedure.  However, this did not happen. More than 9 months after the procedure, she still found it painful to sit or sleep for more than 4 hours at a time.  She stopped using the brace after 6 months because it was not helping and creating other skin problems for her.  During my visit, I gave her intensive acupuncture therapy, twice a day, and that helped her pain management and sleep.  I also took her to an Atlas Profilax practitioner. 

At around the same time as my mum’s accident, a client of mine had an accident that fractured 3 of her metatarsals on her foot.  She was in a cast and wanted to expedite her recovery with natural medicines.  I put her on natural calcium and symphytum.  She was in a cast for a few months, but her x-rays showed recovery and she was ultimately taken off the cast.  She subsequently resumed her normal physical activities and went for an overseas holiday.

Moral of the story:  Natural medicines can work as well if not better than invasive medical procedures.  Remember most medical procedures are not cheap.  The vertebropasty procedure costs over $5,000.  So, investigate before you commit.  If some promises are too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!